A Close Shave. Perhaps Too Close.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So Gini got me a straight razor for Christmas.  I have now shaved twice with a straight razor.  How’s that working?
That looks bloody, and it is, but it’s actually not bad for a starter.  The trick, as Gary Braunbeck has noted, is not to hesitate.  Yes, you are sweeping a literally razor-sharp implement of vengeance over your skin.  Yes, you are angling it slightly, so that it could cut you.  Yes, this is a weapon that can, and has, killed many people by cutting the soft, soft flesh that you are pressing this razor to right now.
But do not slow down!  Be graceful, sweeping.  If you falter, then the blade digs in, and you wind up with a cut like mine.
This is why the shaving scene works so well in Skyfall.  Shaving is an exercise in confidence.  You tremble, you bleed.  Your hand must be steady.
I’m experiencing two major problems with the straight razor shave, and the first was poor instruction.  The “Learn to Shave” DVD we got as a part of this kit is abysmal, for it was made by a shaving collector.  And he loves the overshare.  Wanna learn how to strop?  Well, he’s gonna get out literally twelve strops and show you each of them, talking about the minute and completely irrelevant differences, and spent – I kid you not – twenty minutes going over them all.  Then eight minutes on stropping.
Plus, while there is great debate about what kinds of grip you should use in the straight-razor community, this guy has a technique I can’t get behind.  See, it’s a stretch to reach over with your right hand to shave your left cheek… so his fix is to use your left hand to shave your left cheek!  And what could be better than using your bad hand when you’re holding a knife?  I didn’t cut myself, but that’s because I barely touched myself, for my left hand was so incompetent I wouldn’t trust it to chop raisins, let alone my face.
The other problem is the shaving soap.  It’s a very thin lather, no matter how much I foam it up, and so I think I need some genuine shaving cream, a big thick layer to use to buffer this blade.  The big cut, again, came from when I was going over an area with the blade, and had shaved off most of the soap.  I need lubrication, badly, and I think I need more of it.
That said, it’s a tremendously focusing activity.  Many of the shaving aficionados liken it to meditation, and I could see that – you really shouldn’t be distracted while dragging a knife over your throat.  It’s a kind of luxurious process; wet the towel, hold the boiling water to your face, lather, hold the towel to your face, lather again, first pass.  Then lather, and shave against the grain.  It forces you to pay attention to the here and now, and that’s useful.
That said, is this a closer shave than I normally get?


No, this is a terrible shave, all patchy and stubbly and far worse than my Gillette Mach 3.  But that’s experience.  I know from my barber Rainier that it can be a wondrously close shave, baby-smooth, but for now it’s the kind of thing where I don’t know what I’m doing and my face is paying for it.  I need a better aftershave, since I have razorburn and petachia that would be fixed with a little Witch Hazel.  (Thank God, Rainier taught me that trick as well.)
Does it hurt?  Well, I’m not the guy to ask, seeing as my appendix exploded and I thought it was just stomach flu.  But it’s a little stingy.  The cuts don’t hurt right away, which is part of the problem – I think of all those movie scenes where the guy’s shaving, then winces, and then there’s blood.  No, this is a surgical cut, so clean you barely feel it, and it’s not until after a bit that you realize oh, hey, there’s a nick.  And then you have to use that damn styptic pencil, which is like Solarcaine on a sunburn.  (Not that I’ve had a cut that required the styptic pencil to stop bleeding, but I feel as though there should be some punitive measures involved.)
In the meantime, shaving’s given me one of my favorite pictures as of late – my hair, with just a teeny bit of blood on the edge.  It’s strangely artistic to me.


  1. Sneebs
    Dec 31, 2012

    I prefer a safety razor myself. A similar edge, but the more conventional razor handle makes it easier for a novice to control. I do have a secondhand 1930s straight razor, but I’ve yet to have it properly sharpened and stropped.
    Still, kudos to you for trying it! Straight razor shaving is hardcore!

  2. alexander hollins
    Jan 3, 2013

    I need lubrication, badly, and I think I need more of it.
    not commenting. NOT COMMENTING! Ahem
    Lush, if you have one in your area, (or they’re online) sells some shaving soaps that foam up wonderfully with a brush. Actually, their regular soap does as well. I have a 4 year old block of demon in the dark that I use with a badger brush to make foam for shaving, works beautifully, and leaves me feeling minty fresh.

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